National football team coach Igor Stimac said on Monday that India’s international friendly against Belarus next week starts “from now on”, although the AIFF is in constant contact with FIFA over “possible sanctions”. “against the European country that has supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. All India Football Federation (AIFF) officials have said that India was trying to avoid playing Belarus on March 26 in Manama, Bahrain, amid a global sports boycott of Russia and Belarus.
World soccer body FIFA has suspended Russia but has yet to announce any such measures for Belarus.
“It’s so-so. We’re going to Bahrain to face them (Bahrain). Bahrain hosts these games. So from now on the game is on,” Stimac said during a virtual news conference, when asked about the status of the match. against Belarus.
“We are in daily contact with FIFA about everything, what is happening in Ukraine and about possible sanctions (on Belarus), but as far as we are concerned, the game is on.” India, without talismanic captain Sunil Chhetri, who is out due to injury, will play hosts Bahrain on March 23 before facing Belarus three days later.
These two international friendly matches are part of India’s preparation for the Asian Cup qualifying finals in Calcutta in June. India will play Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Cambodia at Salt Lake Stadium from June 8-14 in Group D matches.
“We are favorites in the group, we are the hosts of the group and there is nothing for us to complain about. But we have to earn it on the pitch,” Stimac said when asked about the Asian Cup qualifiers.
“The other three teams will also fight for qualification, we can’t take anyone easy. We should not look at the team rankings. We have to earn it on the field and that’s how we’re going to prepare”. The winners of the six groups and the top five runners-up from all groups will reach the Asian Cup in China in 2023. The matches of the six groups will take place in different countries.
He added that India will play at least four more international friendly matches before the Asian Cup final round qualifiers.
Stimac said he hopes to test various combinations during the two international friendly matches in Manama to prepare for different scenarios during the Asian Cup qualifiers in June.
“We are going to prepare various combinations. As a contender for first place in the group, we have to think about playing attacking football, playing with more players up front, risking more.” The head coach said he will give chances to the new players in both games, but cautioned against jumping the gun in declaring the ISL players quality players on the international stage.
“The pace of the ISL is way below the pace of international football. Sometimes we are impressed with some ISL players, but when they come to international matches there is nothing they can do. We have to be very sure of their quality in international matches”. ”, said the Croatian.
“I want to see some new faces. It’s important for me to find out how much they can do on the international stage. I give each player a certain minute on the pitch and see their ability.”
“The two games (against Bahrain and Belarus) will show where your team is at the moment. We have chosen the opponents very carefully, they are higher ranked teams, although I said rankings don’t matter.” He mentioned Roshan Singh and Vice President Suhair as young players to watch out for, and also described Sahal Abdul Samad as one of his favorite players.
“Roshan has been consistent all season, playing on the left or the right, on both flanks, making great crosses, assisting a lot, his crosses are with the eyes, always finding the players inside the box and creating chances. That’s it.” It’s what we need, especially as we are the favorites in our group for the Asian Cup qualifiers.” Stimac also reported that after the match against Bahrain, three Mumbai City FC players will leave the team as the ISL team will have to prepare for the AFC Champions League.
He said that in Chhetri’s absence, goalkeeper Gupreet Singh Sandhu and defender Sandesh Jhinghan will wear the captain’s armband.
Regarding the ongoing ISL, Stimac said he has seen some of the most spectacular goals since the start of the league and they can be compared to Premier League level.
He also said that most ISL goalkeepers except Prabhsukhan Gill have had a “nightmare” season, making “unnecessary mistakes” and conceding “funny” goals, although he said that was part of football.
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